With the media focus being on the bill to replace the ISA, a DAP MP notes that the tabling of amendments to criminal laws went unnoticed.
GEORGE TOWN: The simultaneous tabling of amendments to the Penal Code, Evidence Act and Criminal Procedure Code were ticking time bombs, warned an opposition leader.
DAP Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong said the amendments had shaken public confidence in the Barisan Nasional federal government.
He said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s ticking time bombs were a rude awakening for Malaysians that the BN government had no intention of real change.
He said people’s trust in the government would erode when oppressive laws repealed with so much fanfare were replaced with equally, if not more, abhorrent legislation.
“The time bomb legislation offend the spirit of legal reform,” added the DAP international bureau secretary.
Liew said due to the main focus being on the introduction of the new Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill 2012 (SOSM) to replace the Internal Security Act, the simultaneous tabling of amendments to the criminal laws went unnoticed.
He said the amendments to the Penal Code portrayed a government operating under a cold war siege mentality, giving the authorities near martial law powers.
“BN’s cold war siege mentality is omnipresent,” he added.
The new Section 124B of the Penal Code created an offence known as “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy”, which was punishable by 20 years imprisonment.
Section 130A defined it as “an activity carried out by a person or a group of persons designed to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by violent or unconstitutional means.”
Under Section 124C, an attempt to commit an “activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy” was punishable by 15 years imprisonment.
Liew argued that the amendments opened the backdoor for questionable convictions violating human rights if misused by an irresponsible government.
“Fears of abuse are raised when a mere attempt to commit the crime is meted out such a heavy punishment,” he cautioned.
Media freedom under threat
He warned that freedom of media and information was under threat with the introduction of Sections 124D, 124E and 124F.
The amendments make it a crime to print, sell, possess or import documents and publications detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
With sketchy definition and a high penalty up to 15 years for printing under the amendments, Liew warned that opportunities were rife for government abuse to clampdown on literature deemed undesirable by the ruling party.
He said the definition “sensitive information” under the new Section 130A (i) was disturbing because it was so broad that it encompassed any document, information or material, whether or not it was classified as top secret, secret, confidential or restricted.
The section must be read together with Part IV of the new SOSM which introduced special procedures relating to sensitive information. It provides for in camera hearing in a trial involving sensitive information.
Under Section 8 (8) of the SOSM, decisions of the court under these procedures were non-appealable.
“This would allow the government to keep sensitive information out of the public eye, not even accessible to the media,” noted Liew.
He alleged that portions or elements of the ISA had also been smuggled into the Penal Code via the new amendments.
Comparatively, he said the words “counsels violent disobedience to the law or any lawful order” in the new Section 124H of the Penal Code were hauntingly similar to the definition of “subversive document” in Section 29 (3)(b) of the ISA.
“The terms ‘counseling disobedience to the law thereof or to any lawful order therein’ are chillingly reminiscent of the definition of ‘terrorist’ in Section 2 of the ISA,” he said.